Around the mountains: Vail Resorts cutting energy use at lodges |

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Around the mountains: Vail Resorts cutting energy use at lodges

BRECKENRIDGE ” Ordered last summer by chief executive Rob Katz to cut energy consumption 10 percent by 2010, employees of Vail Resorts have been rapidly changing out light bulbs at its five ski areas, plus its dozens of hotels and other buildings.

Julie Klein, director of environmental affairs for RockResorts and Vail Resorts hospitality, estimated that more than 25,000 lights have been changed in 60 properties to use lower-consuming compact fluorescents. Included are such places as on-mountain restaurants at the company’s five ski areas, lodges, lift shacks and some ” but not all real-estate projects.

But it’s not just light bulbs. It’s also such things as at Keystone Lodge and Spa, where installation of timers and sensors has yielded a 20 percent savings in electricity.

At the Lodge at Vail, a 40-year old boiler was replaced at a cost of $300,000 with a new high-efficiency model. The new model is expected to result in 5 to 7 percent less consumption of natural gas. The savings are projected to pay back the investment within five to seven years.

Some good deeds were done well in advance of the edict, however. Because of work at one building in particular, the Great Divide Lodge in Breckenridge, the company was recently recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency with an Energy Star award.

The award is given to commercial building and industrial plants that rate in the top 25 percent of facilities in the nation in terms of energy efficiency. The hotel is the only one in the Rocky Mountain region to be so recognized.

The lodge uses 49.6 percent less energy than the national average for similar hotels, the Summit Daily News recently noted.

“Just turning down the heat in the common areas is huge,” chief engineer Ben Raitano said. Energy is typically responsible for 6 percent of a hotels’ operating cost. As such, said the EPA’s Barbara Conklin, reducing energy use by 10 percent is the same as increasing revenues by raising room rates.

The increased emphasis upon energy efficiency and conservation is expected to offer handsome paybacks for Vail, which spends $25 million per year for gas and electricity.

ASPEN ” In November, four people died in their sleep at a home near Aspen because of asphyxiation by carbon monoxide. In response, both Aspen and Pitkin County tightened up regulations, mandating carbon monoxide detectors outside each separate sleeping quarter. The Aspen Times notes that a similar requirement covering all of Colorado is being studied by state legislators.